Impacted Canines

Canine teeth, also referred to as cuspids or eye teeth, are generally the last of the front teeth to fully erupt and fall into place in the mouth. They differ from incisors in that they have thicker, longer, more conical roots that create an especially firm connection to the jaw. Maxillary, or upper, canines are among the most common teeth to become impacted, second only to wisdom teeth. Impaction essentially means that a tooth is stuck or blocked, unable to fully erupt into place and function properly.

Since wisdom teeth serve no important function in the mouth, impacted ones are removed. Canines, on the other hand, serve several crucial purposes in terms of oral function and appearance. Canines aid in establishing proper alignment of the front teeth and help to close gaps between them as they emerge into the jaw. They are also the first teeth to touch when the jaw closes, guiding other teeth into proper bite position. For these reasons, canines require treatment when they are impacted, rather than removal.

What Causes Impacted Canines?

Among the most common reasons that canines become impacted is restricted space in the jaw. Overcrowding that inhibits canine eruption may be caused by improper alignment of front teeth or the presence of extra teeth. Less commonly, impacted canines can be caused by unusual growths on the soft tissue of the gums, which can slow or stop the progress of canine tooth eruption.If these problems are diagnosed and treated early on in the eruption process, canine impaction can be avoided, the tooth, once given the space, erupting naturally. However, the older a patient is at diagnosis, the less likely it is that this will occur. For that reason, a thorough examination of the teeth is recommended by age 7 to check the progress of canine eruption.

How Are Impacted Canines Treated?

    • In some cases impaction can be corrected through orthodontic treatment alone, creating space for the canine to erupt. In others, treatment will require the assistance of a Baltimore oral surgeon to extract overly retained baby teeth, selected adult teeth or extra teeth that are blocking canine eruption, or to remove any unusual growths that inhibit progress.
    • If the path for eruption has been cleared and the tooth still will not erupt spontaneously, orthodontists and oral surgeons can work together to resolve the impaction. Typically, Dr. Arroyo will expose the impacted tooth by making and incision in the gum tissue and lifting it away from the tooth. Then, she will bond and orthodontic bracket to the tooth, which has a tiny chain attached to it. While the tooth is sometimes left exposed, in most cases, the gum tissue is sutured, covering the tooth, with the chain protruding.
    • That chain, after a healing period of 10 to 14 days, will be attached to orthodontic devices in the mouth for the purpose of applying gentle pressure to the tooth to coax its eruption – a process that can take up to a year. Once the tooth has emerged into its proper place, some patients will need to return to our office for gum surgery to ensure that there is enough healthy gum tissue surrounding the tooth to keep it healthy and strong.

Impacted Canines

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